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Going Concern Sale Liquidations and the Termination of Collective Bargaining Agreements under Chapter 11

By: Cecilia Ehresman

St. John’s Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff


In In re Chicago Construction Specialties, Inc.,[i] the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois recently held that the debtor must satisfy the requirements of section 1113 of the Bankruptcy Code, even though the debtor was liquidating under chapter 11 instead of reorganizing.[ii] In Chicago Construction, debtor, a demolition construction company, ceased operations, sold substantially all its assets outside of bankruptcy, and sent the union representing its workers a notice that it intended to reject a collective bargaining agreement[iii] before the company filed for bankruptcy.[iv] Subsequently, the debtor filed for bankruptcy under chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code and moved to reject its CBAs pursuant to section 1113 of the Bankruptcy Code.[v] The union objected, arguing that the debtor had unilaterally rejected the CBA by providing an ultimatum rather than a proposal for modification.[vi] The Chicago Construction court ruled in favor of the debtor, finding that there was no good reason not to allow the debtor to reject the CBA because the debtor had already liquidated and the only effect of not allowing the debtor to reject the CBA would be to elevate the union’s claims over those of the debtor’s other creditors.[vii]

Chapter 11 Liquidation and its Effect on Collective Bargaining Agreements

By: Dylan Coyne

St. John’s Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

In In re Alpha Natural Resources, Inc., a Virginia bankruptcy court allowed a coal mining company to reject its collective bargaining agreements thereby permitting the company to sell its revenue generating assets. Alpha Natural Resources, Inc. (“Alpha”) is the largest coal producing company by volume in the United States and began to sustain severe financial difficulties after the coal industry began to decline in 2011. In an effort to stay afloat, Alpha began to cut costs by freezing wages, laying off employees and reducing benefits for non-union employees in 2013. In its Chapter 11 case, Alpha explored selling its core revenue generating assets to its prepetition lenders (the “Bidders”), who served as a stalking horse for the sale. The Bidders, however, were not willing to assume Alpha’s liabilities to Alpha’s unions as required under the collective bargaining agreement or under the Coal Industry Retiree Health Benefit Act of 1992 (the “Coal Act”). Accordingly, Alpha filed a motion for an order rejecting the collective bargaining agreements. Alpha’s unions objected to the request, arguing that §§ 1113 and 1114 of the Bankruptcy Code do not apply to Alpha since Alpha is liquidating and those sections address reorganization, and further that Alpha had not satisfied the elements of those same statutes.

KEIPs v. KERPs: Court Shows Deference to Chapter 11 Companies to Defend Their Bonus Plans Under BAPCPA

By: Sumaya Restagno

St. John’s Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

Under the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (“BAPCPA”), Congress imposed strict limitations on payments made specifically to retain key employees of companies in chapter 11 bankruptcy and narrowed the circumstances under which these payments could be made through the addition of section 503(c). Under section 503(c)(1), chapter 11 debtors may pay a bonus to certain employees under a Key Employee Retention Plan (“KERP”) upon approval of the court and after a showing that certain required factors have been satisfied. Under section 503(c)(3), chapter 11 debtors may pay a bonus under a Key Employee Incentive Plan (“KEIP”) to certain employees after they attain certain measurable, difficult-to-reach milestones. Payments under a KEIP are described as being outside the ordinary course of business and are statutorily prohibited unless justified by the facts and circumstances of the case. Many courts have held this standard to be synonymous with the “business judgment” standard that governed KERPS prior to the BAPCPA which is not as strict as the test under 503(c)(1).